Oda is a person, whose inner world extends beyond the ordinary imagination. Not only her skill and talent astonished me, but her delicate presence and soul. Achingly beautiful, her artwork is like an elevation for the spirit and the senses. Vizualising emotions, she reveals the invisible for the eye world. She finds the light and the dark in all of us, the fragility and vulnerability in simply living. Emotions alive, inspiring us to reflect and dream.
I am always very happy and grateful to meet a deep and sensual being like Oda, which does not happen every day. I had the pleasure to meet her at the second floor of Café de Flore on a cup of tea and fresh grapefruit juice. Gentle and subtle from the outside, and strong and expressive from within, she let me discover her whimsical world.
Take a glimpse into Oda’s world of oddities and curiosities.
This interview is devoted to everyone, who dares to look at the invisible for the eye.
'I have always been interested in what happens when you close your eyes, what do you see... what happens when the light goes off?'
How did you decide that painting is going to be your life?
I believe it started very early. In my family there were already few artists – my father and my sister. I grew up in an environment surrounded by art. I learnt to appreciate. I was very fascinated by the beauty at home. I was spending hours and hours in the studio of my father. For me that was the nicest place.
Do you believe the sensibility of a person is formed in a very early age?
I am not sure if it is not even from before. Before you come to Earth. In my case, it was there. I always had the dream and I still have it. What I believe for dreams is that they need to be huge. When you are a child you have big ones and when you are older it is important to keep the dream not really reachable.
You paint another dimension, the unseen for the eye...
The world of emotions, which we can only imagine how it looks like. The cosmic, the sublime... Can you share what led you to paint that?
I see so many things. I am so fascinated by life. It is so stunning, in the good and in the bad way. What I don’t like about it is that in life you have so many borders, you are very limited by many things like time, physics, by what you actually are et cetera. Many things you can’t change. In art there are no rules, no borders. I think that the greatest freedom that exist is in art. This is what I love most about it. Many things are invisible, they are not material. We do not have vision for it - like feelings, thoughts… I am in search to catch them and put them in a form. For me painting is the shortest way to transmit what I see and give it to the outside. Of course it is a world, which I create and I hope it is a world that is very particular for each one. What you see might be different to what you feel. Or you are going to feel something different than another person seeing it. This is what counts to me. That’s why I never give titles. I like to leave you your space and not take anything away with a clue telling you "this is a transcription" and "this is the way you have to see". I would love to have an open space, where you find yours inside. You may enter, and what you find inside is only yours.
Even though, for some your artwork might be disturbing, you can feel that in your work you put gentle and loving treatment, like a dance between the emotion and human body. not tearing apart but being in unity. We are usually torn apart between reason and emotion? Which one do you listen to?
I believe in the subconsciousness. I think you are so much more driven from what is beneath and beyond, than what is on the surface. I am very interested what is inside. I have been always interested what happens when you close your eyes, what do you see... What happens when the light goes off? How much light is there actually, when there is no light? I read a beautiful story of Plato few years ago. It was about human beings before, with two heads, four hands and four feet. Not like today. Felt in love with this image. One day the Gods understood that we are so happy and so strong that they got afraid we are going to reach the level of perfection. So they decided to cut each one into two parts. From that moment on, we always live with the feeling something is missing. With everything you do, you try to become complete once again. You search for the other human being, who might fulfil you, all the material things which can make you round. Maybe feeling complete is not good. You need to search and not stop.
Your work expresses both strengths and weakness. What is the beauty of weakness?
There is the truth. I love the truth. There is a lot of beauty in being true and week. I love the idea that we all in a way are the same. I try to embrace and understand. I love the whole philosophy of Nietzsche and I feel very close to embracing weakness and Nature. There is a lot beauty inside.
Is there a single artist or painting, which corresponds the most to your sensibility and changed the way you look at art?
If I have to choose a woman and a man, I would choose Frida Kahlo and Picasso. I would say that both of them gave me a lot.
Are you aware of any direct influence on your work as a stylistic approach?
I suppose no, because I am so close to it, I am doing it. I don't really know. But what I very much like is reality. I like to make things believable. This gave a direction of my precision. I break out of this with take all the freedom which for example the Surrealist movement gives. I don't have the borders.
What triggers you to paint? Is it happiness, sadness, memories, daydreams?
I suppose all of these feelings. All of them. There is not a feeling that doesn't float inside. It is another state of existing when doing it. There are many things inside, and there comes the moment when you are alone, and you are not really here. You are somewhere else. With everything you have inside, you are flying to it. You don't feel time, hunger, being tired. Normally I wouldn't need it. The process itself gives me the fuel to do it. You don't have desire of nothing else, just to do it.
Speaking of the painting process, how does it usually goes by? It is clear a great amount of thought goes into cultivating each piece. What is the atmosphere around you and inside of you?
It is very quiet. Sometimes there is a lot of music. It is a very lonely process. It is a very special state where you find yourself. You do things which you normally don't. I am always surprised by my paintings, I never know how things are going to end. It is going to a total openness. In all directions. There is a point you change direction, and one when you let go. I have to leave and the painting has to leave me. And there is a dream of next one...
Is the palpable silence and spontaneity in your paintings, which only add to the overall sense of intimacy, correspond to your daily life?
I would describe myself as a very disciplined, Bulgarian. (smiling) I guess there is a part of me very dreamy, with no limit of the imagination, bun there is a structure of a very hard worker. I would say that if I observe my daily life from aside, has nothing in common with my art. Not even the colours, nor the light, or the subject.
Do you believe with time when you create, you peel off different layers of your soul and reach depth?
I suppose the more difficult the painting is, I go deeper inside of me. The paintings which happen to be very easily born, I am very suspicious about. You have to let them be.
Is there a work of yours in which you see yourself the most?
I love all of them. There is not a single which is not a piece from the inside. But there is one, which I never gave away. Normally I don't posses any other painting of mine. They all go. That one I kept. It is a little one with a head of a girl. It was one of the most difficult works of mine. I painted it one year long. It started with skin colour and it became darker and darker, burnt like... At the last moment it became a second skin.
Do you paint for expressing yourself or you would like to communicate something with the viewer?
I paint, because I can't differently. As long as I am, I paint.
It is not a profession but an existence. I share because it has to do with everything the world is. I am very happy when it reaches the world as much as possible. That it goes far away from me.
How can an artist implement the social within art? Do you think an artist can eventually trigger a positive social change?
I believe art can change the world.
How do you embrace and claim your strong emotional world, without being crushed by the cold society?
I am very alone and I do not depend on nothing. It is not a team work. If you don't have any more colour you can take the coffee and paint with it. It comes from the inside. It is more difficult but it is a very autonomous thing. I would like to know the way people feel and react. I am very curious. But it is the last step, if it is at all a step of it... It touches me so much . It gives me another happiness when people can really live with a work, and can without it. Every painting is a very particular place. They are not really series. It is very one of a kind path I have chosen. There is nothing to do with the rules. I don't want to do bigger production or have assistants et cetera.
Your art represents exaggerated organs expressing emotions.. Why is it vitally important to express our emotions and not conceal and lock them?
I think inside and outside we so much forget what we really are. We are so afraid to know what material we are made of. We change our surface and make different forms of it. I think it is very beautiful what is inside and I treat it with a lot of love. I do not want to shock anyone. There is a lot of tenderness... It is a very complex subject.
How do you perceive the world and reality nowadays? What do we lack of and what there is too much of?
I come from a very different time and things today are moving so fast. It think it is great to have a childhood without the digital. Floating into this new dimensions, which I like at the same time.. there is a lot of freedom in it. There is a lot of freedom nowadays. Each one could exist virtually. I am very fascinated by the Internet because of the human being and what happens to him. When you open oneself you show the most intimate part of yourself and you share it with the world. I feel we are closer to each other than ever. There is a new dimension. It is an extremely fascinating time. At the same time, I have never been really interested in politics, but I must say what is happening recently in the world, makes me getting involved. We are in an age of big changes and they happen fast and will be even faster.
What is the most intimate object and space for you?
It is for sure the place I paint. I often change it, I do not have a studio. I like to be not really bounded. I can work in a corner or anywhere. My first studio in Paris was in a little space, which was a walk in space, between my daughters room, the bedroom and the kitchen. In a way, these 30 cm between me and my painting is the most intimate space for me. For an object, I suppose it is my passport with the name my husband gave to me. It is the most precious and intimate thing I ever had. (smiling)
What keeps your creative spirit awake?
It starts from you, from this (pointing at the tea cup)... I can be so excited about anything. I imagine. The process of work is so long, it takes months, years... I have to choose for which ones I go and shall I make. I wish to have thousand of years. I like the precious moment when
I choose and leave everything for this one. I know that time is limited. I like the preciousness of the material too. I don't throw things away, I respect. If it didn't work, I will keep it for later. Like paper... Imagine Da Vinci was using the same paper... Maybe it comes from the Bulgarian church and the way we look at icons. You have this admiration, materials are holly. I've spent so much time in looking into the hands, into the faces.. and praying in front of it. I kept this feeling for the wood, for the canvas and painting in general.
Do you find something more divine and holly in our inner selves, in our cosmos? How do you conceive this spiritual world?
I think there is not a single painting without a soul in it. You can feel the presence. I like the idea that everything has a soul. It is so fascinating what we are and what we are able to be. When don't know where we come from or where we are going to. But now we are here.
What is a truly beautiful memory of yours, which reoccurs in your mind again and again?
I like very much the places I have been. I like very much the forest since childhood. I was not permitted to walk alone but I was always escaping and going alone to the forest. This are beautiful moments... Another thing I would never forget is the Northern Light. It was as if someone was behind the sky, close to the North pole.
That reminds me of your painting with he rainbow.. What is it about?
I love that one. It was about being free. About absolutely embracing everything, all the colours and everything you can be.
Are there any books through which you escape as in the forest?
Not really. I read mainly through images. My books are not written with words.
What is your first memory of painting?
When I was a child and I painted naked human bodies on the desk. It was a big problem. (laughing) First, why is it on the desk, and second - why naked?! Another memory of mine is when my sister was babysitting me... She gave me tulips. I tried to draw them in the best possible way I could and I was expecting her to say something nice to me.
On the contrary she said: "You didn't do anything. You see the nature? You see how beautiful it is? You will be never able and no one else can overcome it." I remember I cried a lot and poured water on the tulip painting.
Why do you think people find naked form shocking, when it is the most natural thing? Why is it still a taboo?
This I am still trying to understand.
What are your artistic endeavours for this new year?
In 2017 I will be showing in 6 exhibitions. 3 in Belgium, in France, Bulgaria and Germany. In Berlin I am showcasing only sculptures. I dedicated the last year only to sculpting, using white porcelain as material.
In sculpture I am searching only for the light and the shadow. I needed a white material, soft to work with, like the human flesh. Therefore, I didn't choose the marble. I choose the porcelain as medium, fascinated by its beauty when being rough and without any glossy finish. It resembles very much the texture of the skin and the fragility of human nature...
How did you form your passion and knowledge for the medium of sculpture?
During my childhood in Bulgaria I spent a lot of time alone in our villa in nature, where sometimes i didn't have any paper or paint. So I was taking the soil and making clay out of it. I started forming different sculptures, which I dried in the sun. Later I did few during my time in Germany, but at that period I was very much into painting. Last year I worked only on it, I was happy to go deep into it...
Are your figurines following the same language of your paintings?
Absolutely. The only difference is in the material I chose. For them I needed to face some limits. The size for example and the gravity, which were challenges, but then entering the three dimension was beautiful...
Does sculpture inhabit space in a different way?
It does. You can see it from behind too. (smiling)
And when the light goes off, you can still see it - by feeling it...
Café de Flore, Paris. Nov 2016
Portrait of Oda Jaune
Illustrated by Katarzyna Jagielnicka for Noir Catcher